Whatcha Readin' (May 09) Edition

My apologies. I have slipped in my monthly duties. I have no idea where my head was yesterday.

Last Month’s thread.

Finished Drood. I have nothing good at all to say about it. It was easily twice as long as it needed to be and as mentioned by me before none of the characters were likable. (I wonder if Dickens was truly the giant ass he was made out to be.) The plot was thin and even thinner on the big reveal. The author treated hypnotism (an integral part of the plot) in a way that would have been common for the time, but has no bearing on how hypnotism really works. (If it exists at all.) I usually am wishy-washy on books I didn’t like, giving them a “mediocre” review. On this I firmly say it was bad and recommend against reading it.

I have been on a Pride and Prejudice kick since Easter and am working on the delightful **Mr. Darcy takes a wife.

Which should be followed by Days and Nights at Pemberly, if I can before it is due back at the library.

Started The Story of Edgar Sawtelle – more despite, than because of, the fact that it’s Oprah-endorsed. I’m only about 90 pages into it (It’s about 600), but so far so good.

I’ve wrapped up reading all of the World Fantasy Award winners and I’ve just started reading Ursala K. Le Guin’s Powers which won the Nebula last week. I’m well aware that what started as a cute reading hobby for a few years ago has become a lifetime treadmill… :wink:

Next up for me is Gene Wolfe’s Soldier in the Mist. I was extremely impressed with Wolfe’s use of an unreliable narrator in Soldier of Sidon and that has made me seek out the other two books he wrote featuring Latro, a soldier in Greco-Persian wars who suffered a headwound and consequently loses his memories within a few hours. He writes down everything that happens to him and so the reader gets these fragments of sometimes contradictory information.

I read Drood in April too but unlike Khadaji, I loved it. It reminded me a bit of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (which I didn’t like as much) – oodles of day to day stuff about Victorian society, the process of writing and publishing in the 1800’s, the careers of Collins and Dickens, etc. The Drood mystery took a back seat, and that was fine with me. I think it could be viewed almost as an alternate history. I’m pretty sure neither Dickens nor Collins were the selfish bastards Simmons makes them out to be, but then they were men of their times and class.

Now I’m reading The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. The jacket says it’s about a haunted house in England just after WWII.

I’m in the middle of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It’s much better than I expected. The blurb was all about the innovativeness of the style and narrator choice. ZOMG the narrator is an autistic kid! “The most wrenching of emotional moments are chronicled by a boy who cannot fathom emotion.” :rolleyes: WTFever. Still doesn’t forgive the blurb writer for giving away an important plot point in the second paragraph. It wasn’t much of a mystery, but a lot of the impact was lost when the truth was revealed.

All reviewer hysteria aside, it is a very good book. It’s almost hypnotic, but then Christopher (the narrator) throws in some complicated math equation and I fall out of the story going :confused:.

:slight_smile: I hated Jonathan Strange too. I agree with your observations. The reasons you liked it were the reasons I didn’t. I didn’t really care about the day-to-day Victorian society, I wanted a more intriguing mystery and plot. I wish I had read your review before buying the book…

(This right here is why I start these threads, I enjoy the differing views on books.)

I’m about 300 pages (which is about 30%) into “Atlas Shrugged.” I’ve always meant to read it, and finally took the plunge. It is fantastic! All the ringing endorsements I’ve heard over the years were understatements. And it is not the slow, difficult read that I expected; it is as easy going as the cheapest pulp, yet still greatly intellectually stimulating.

It is written as a mystery, centered on several captains of industry fighting government takeovers of their industry, as well as the mysterious disappearances of several of their peers.

Of course, as I’m a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist, I find it music to my ears. Were I a Socialist or lazy hippie, I might have a different view…TRM

I came this close to passing on Drood – a lot of the reviews complained that the book was too wordy and repetitive. But so was The Terror and I loved that one. I’m hoping Simmons continues taking on actual historical events and real people, putting his imaginative spin on them. I recently read a Simmons novella, Muse of Fire. It’s about an acting troupe that travels the galaxy putting on Shakespeare’s plays for aliens. He’s obviously interested in Shakespeare, and I’d love to see him do something with Willie.

Me too, except that the recs are breaking my budget! :slight_smile:

I’m about halfway through Name to a Face, by Robert Goddard. I was hoping to finish it on the flight home yesterday; seeing that I didn’t, I’ve no idea when I’m going to find time. Love his writing, though - well paced, and full of twists; just the way I like my mysteries!

Over the last four days I’ve plowed through Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy. And was not impressed. The ending seemed hurried, and lots of threads just tied up hurriedly, like the last chapter of Harry Potter. There were no heroes, just survivivors.
I’m now slogging through Kim Stanley Robinson’s Years of Rice and Salt. I usually love alternative history, but this is ridiculous. I’m halfway through, and the main characters have died and been reborn half a dozen times. Much Buddhist mysticism, and not enough story. Is his Mars series like this??:dubious:

It’s worse than anything you can imagine. Unlikable characters in a plot that will make you want to smash your head against the wall told by an author more interested in describing the landscape than anything else in the novel.

I’m reading Seven Types Of Ambiguity, a psychological thriller told from seven different perspectives. I love it and recommend it.

I just finished The Man Who Ate The 747, by Ben Sherwood, a charming if rather wacky love story.

Me, I loved it – the way the narrative voice of each section was appropriate to that section. If it’s a slog, stop reading now – if the premise/style doesn’t grab you, you’re not going to enjoy it any more if you keep going.

Just finished re-reading Dave Barry’s first novel, Big Trouble.

Gloriously silly.

I just finished Tea Time for the Traditional Built, by Alexander McCall Smith. I love the series and it was a pleasant book, but not my favorite installment. Football and automotive bereavement just aren’t terribly intriguing. YMMV, though.

Next up, Small Crimes by Dave Zeltserman, thanks to the generosity of AuntiePam. :slight_smile:

Interesting. I read Curious Incident just after Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Both books share a somewhat odd pre-adolescent narrator, and both, I thought, weren’t very good. But while Haddon’s story, in order to even be a story, had to be narrated from an odd perspective to be interesting, Foer’s story suffered so utterly from Foer’s inability to render a believable narrator that it was a terrible, terrible slog. I wouldn’t call Haddon’s book very good, either (though it was an okay read), but at least he mostly created a believable narrator; Foer, not so much (and incidentally, this was the more believable of the two narrators Foer’s novels have had so far; his previous faux-bad oh-so-funny Ukranian-English speaking excuse for a joke is so utterly unfunny and unrealistic that I couldn’t read past the first three pages).

In a more positive contributory vein, I’m currently reading Seth Grahame-Smith’s hilarious Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. If only Jane Austen had realized how good her novel could have been with zombies…
I’m also on John Joseph Abrams’s recent collection The Living Dead, which is a mixed bag, but decidely better overall than History is Dead, edited by Kim Paffenroth (who wrote an excellent book on the Romero movies!). I’m also still on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. I’m re-reading Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, William Shakespeare’s King Richard the Third, and a couple of Emily Dickinson’s poems.

I finally got around to joining the local library yesterday, and checked out three books:
The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth. The story is interesting and terrifying and I’m enjoying that, but I feel sort of let down by Phillip Roth. I’d always heard he was one of America’s literary treasures and, well, no, not really. The book is fine, but it’s not as good or well-written as imagined it would be. Maybe my expectations were just too high. I’m only half-way through; maybe he gets better.
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon. Should be good; I loved …Kavalier and Clay.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which I know I’m going to love; I’ve loved every other Bond novel I’ve read.

Huh, I didn’t realize I was two books behind on that series - I thought The Good Husband of Zebra Drive was the last one. I’ll have to get those.

Shirley Ujest, I should have heeded sooner your raving about the Lindsey Davis series. I really enjoyed Silver Pigs, and am about to start the next one.